By Mike Sales
My favorite interviews are with artists of whom I’m already a fan before I write about them.
I first heard Lenny’s name when he was recommended as the “go to” guy to solve a problem I was having with my new-to-me Fender Stratocaster. I met him at his Twinkle gig to drop it off and became an instant fan when I poked my head into the club to hear him shred on lead guitar…and shortly after, I became yet another satisfied customer when the guitar came back good as new!
I interviewed him at his luthier shop, surrounded by specialized tools and dozens of instruments awaiting surgery.
WPT: Where are you from?
Lenny: I grew up an Army brat, moving every 2 years…I was born in Dyersburg TN, but lived in Germany, Italy, Kentucky, Alabama and graduated in North Carolina.
WPT: When did you start playing guitar?
Lenny: It started out as pure laziness…I took a Folk guitar class, as an elective, to get out of a history class. My dad bought an old guitar off the wall of a bar for $25…terrible guitar.
WPT: How long did you have it?
Lenny: I had it for 2 years, actually. I put steel strings on it and ripped the bridge off 2 times before the luthier in town, finally told me I was using the wrong strings. I eventually worked my way into my first electric guitar, it was a Sears Silvertone…a Gibson SG copy.
WPT: Did you just start out with Folk music?
Lenny: It was the early 70’s, so Folk music was real big, but the class was an elective and some of the students were advanced players, in there for an easy ‘A”…one of the girls in the class taught me how to play “Stairway to Heaven”, and from there I was hooked on playing rock music.
WPT: Where did your music study evolve from there?
Lenny: Just one day, while hanging out with my friend, I heard Robin Trower’s album, “Bridge of Sighs” coming from his brother’s room, playing on a stereo…it blew my mind…I asked if I could borrow the tape, went home and practiced with it for hours and hours on my little cassette player…that’s where it really came together for me and later I got turned onto Jimi Hendrix.
WPT: So, other than what you learned in Folk guitar class, you were self-taught?
Lenny: Pretty much, I listened to people and asked questions but I did a lot of woodshedding with recordings, wrote songs and even went on tour before I went to college to study classical guitar…I actually met with the instructor in advance and took private lessons with him for 2 years to learn sight-reading and pick up what I lacked in my background and then enrolled.
WPT: You went on tour?
Lenny: I got a gig with a company called “Young American Showcase”…they had 8 bands and sent them out across the country to play high school assemblies…comedy, skits and music and then at night they’d play a concert, with just music. They came to my school and invited us to audition, so I got a card, sent for an audition kit, recorded some songs, got accepted and went out on the road when I was 19.
WPT: How long were you with the company?
Lenny: I was on the road with them for 3 years. We would do 3 to 5 shows a day, 5 days a week, a night show on Saturday and travel on Sunday. The company paid us a salary and took care of everything. It was a great way to get experience and see the country.
WPT: When did you start writing?
Lenny: Almost from the beginning…I would experiment with different guitar lines and I’ve been writing ever since.
WPT: How did you wind you playing on Siesta Key?
Lenny: Well, one morning at around 2:30 am, during the 4th Nor’easter of the season, after shoveling my car out of the snow and going inside to take a shower; I came back outside to find the snowplow had covered me back up with slush and ice. Driving to work, I got a phone call from Tony, who’d played bass in the first Showcase band with me and was up in New Jersey with his brother playing in a Southern Rock band. He was asking if I’d like to move to Florida, where we’d visited, to play at his dad’s wedding…I put my notice in at work.
Our first gig on Siesta Key was at the Beach Club and we also had a cool gig at what is now Gilligan’s…it was called the “Key Hole” at the time and we’d set the stage up like a living room, and do an unplugged show, like we were hanging out at the house. Sometimes we’d wear pajamas…it was a regular thing and some of the audience started showing up in pajamas too.
WPT: How would you describe your guitar playing these days?
Lenny: Loud and sloppy (laughs). I think of my influences as Robin Trower and Jimi Hendrix and my tone has a strong influence from the 80’s rock bands.
WPT: When did you start playing with Twinkle?
Lenny: Twinkle is Tony’s half sister, so that’s how I met her. I played with her as a fill-in for a couple of years and when she booked the Van Wesel for the 25th Anniversary of her Warner Brother’s record, we spent a lot of time with a full band rehearsing all of the songs from the album. I played guitar for that show and during breaks, I would play around with songs I’d written and she liked them. We co-wrote songs and I became her full-time guitar player…that’s also how our first album came together.
WPT: When you’re not playing, you’re working on instruments…recommended by everyone I’ve asked in town; when and how did you pick up this trade?
Lenny: When my wife and I had our child, we agreed she’d return to work so I looked for a trade that would facilitate my role as Mr. Mom. I’d always had a meticulous nature so I went away to the Galloup School of Lutherie, in Grand Rapids Michigan, learned how to build & repair guitars, came back, invested in tools and started this business…it’s actually my primary profession. I work about 30 hours a week at this and play 2 nights a week with the band.
WPT: How often do you play on Siesta Key?
Lenny: We play just about every Saturday at Blasé Café 6:30 to 10 pm.
WPT: What can people expect to see at your show?
Lenny: A Twinkle show is a concert. We have an excellent band, we do a lot of 70’s rock classics, some 80’s covers, some originals and we craft our show.
WPT: What is your favorite thing about performing?
Lenny: Writing the music; those moments onstage, when the band is going full bore, putting on a good show connecting with the people having a great time and dancing to songs that we created and I think to myself, “we wrote this song”…I love that, it’s the best feeling.
You can find Lenny Brooks on Reverbnation. Twinkle music is available on iTunes and at twinklerocksoulradio.com
Blasé Café features live music weekly and is located at 5263 Ocean Blvd in the village.
Mike Sales is a local singer/songwriter for more information log onto mikesalessings.com